By Evan Hoopfer
Lou Levine always teased one of his friends about his friend’s thick nest of black hair. Before the start of the basketball season a few years ago, Levine thought it was time he called his friend.
He was joking as usual and then asked, “How’s your hair doing?
“I don’t have any hair,” his friend responded.
Levine’s friend had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. All his black hair was gone. The joking ended and the gravity of the situation struck Levine hard.
Just a few weeks before, Levine was at an officials meeting when someone raised the topic of Officials vs. Cancer. Levine thought about helping out, but he wasn’t enthusiastic about it.
But after that phone call to his friend, Levine went all in. Levine, a lawyer from central Massachusetts, set out to get donations. Since 2012, he has raised approximately $231,000.
“I’m trying to do something more than just being a referee,” he said. “I could go out and referee a game, but if I could go out there and raise some money, then it’s so much for the better.”
With permission of the schools at which he officiates, he asks people in the crowd for donations before games. He gets people to sponsor him. He said officials he works with donate their game checks. He does everything he can to try and raise as much money as possible.
Levine spends a lot of time on the court, which means a lot of opportunities to collect donations. Last year, he officiated more than 200 games largely because of the desire to raise more money. He donates his game fees as well.
The fundraising has something of a snowball effect. It has been a bit easier because the more and more he raises, the more attention his efforts receive, which means more money.
When he calls someone (he always calls; never emails) and asks for a donation, he offers to send them newspaper articles or links to broadcasts from TV stations to show his passion for the cause.
“Now, people know who I am and remember me from the previous year,” he said. “It’s the awareness part of it that I think is important. Even aside from raising money.”
Tragically, Levine’s friend was not his only acquaintance to be affected by cancer. Two of the referees at the meeting where the fundraising idea was broached died shortly thereafter due to complications from cancer.
“Everybody’s gonna get it,” Levine said. “Or, if you don’t get it, there’s going to be somebody very near and dear to you that does get it.”
He can’t help but get emotional when, before or after games, people come up to him and tell him they are a cancer survivor.
“It reverberates with you after a while,” he said, “that a lot of people are suffering from cancer.”
Evan Hoopfer is a freelance writer from Dallas.
Lou Levine is a great inspiration for officials everywhere. Lou has raised more than 200 thousands dollars in the fight to cure cancer. Lou donates all his game fees and whatever money he collects at each game to the American Cancer Society. Because of his hard work, generosity and selflessness, NASO and IAABO presented Lou with a Great Call award at the 2016 Sports Officiating Summit in San Antonio.